Saturday, May 16, 2015

Genryu in the Catskills: fishing the headwaters of one of the most respected trout rivers in the northeast USA

Last weekend was a bit of an adventure. It was Mother's day, yes, but my mother happens to be in another country and so I found myself free for the weekend. I wanted to fish "Genryu" or headwaters for wild trout.

 I sent a Mother's day note via email and headed off with a friend in a similar situation, to explore the headwaters of one of the most famous trout rivers in the northeast - and certainly in New York State.

Other than the bugs being completely relentless, we were in for a prime weekend in the mountains. The ferns were just coming up, providing me with some nice zenmai, or fern-fuzz to try to tie a few more kebari with the stuff. Still haven't had a chance to try one out yet.

The spring flowers were in bloom, but I sense they would have been even more plentiful had more rain fallen in April.

The forest was hot - the trees were waiting for that spring rain and held back their leaves from emerging as they seemed to want to do so badly. Our first stream crossing was welcome.

This small tributary to the river we were hiking towards was my first opportunity to fish. It was mostly small enough to jump across. That was not reflected in the numbers of wild brookies hooked in a 10 minute break.

They took everything from bead-heads to dries and were all small, between 4 and 7 inches each.

We moved on and hiked another mile or maybe less to the second feeder stream, which was more productive and held slightly larger fish. 

I was enjoying really getting some time with dry flies, the first real weekend of the season that I was seeing the fish rise readily to them in all the riffles and pools.

Beautiful flowers lined the banks of each stream we encountered.

 At this point we decided to hike on to the headwaters of the main river we were there to camp along-side of, and it wasn't far away. We crossed this beautiful mossy creek that flowed from a pond.

When we arrived at the headwaters, there was a riffle section that I fished up to this calm pool. There were few fish here, and they were very easy to spook.

Further up river there were some beautiful rock formations.

Right before the trail started to gain a little elevation, we noticed a large beaver dam created by a split in the river.

I couldn't resist the urge to fish it. While I got lots of little hits, none of the fish were large enough to get a good hook set. The big ones were jumping far off in the distance, reachable only by some sort of water-craft.

The trail we were hiking on was basically an old mountain road no longer in use. There was some kind of old junction in the path where clearly a bridge had once stood to cross the river. It had been washed out long ago.

The path beyond was smaller and more overgrown, clearly abandoned and turned to foot path years before the section we had been hiking on so far. We set up camp nearby and prepared some hot food.

I noted some nice places to fish in the morning.

My friend Greg had his Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1.

I'm always impressed with my newer camera's ability to take detailed photos at night with a flash.

These days I almost always bring my Zpacks Solplex. Its so light, has lots of room inside, and allows for lots of airflow, if desired.

The next morning I awoke early and went to hit the prime headwaters section I had come here to see. It was a bit low, water-wise, but was just absolutely beautiful water.

It ran over mossy rocks in the flatter sections.

As the elevation increased it became a mix of rock-shelf pools and longer pool/run hybrid sections where the water had created deep channels in the rock.

Plenty of undercut rock shelves, submerged boulders and large rectangular bricks created an ideal habitat for trout, as well as for sitting and enjoying the nature around me.

In this next pool I hooked and lost the fish of the trip. It was at least twice the size of the others I caught, and much more along the lines of the fish I had expected to see in the stream. 

The stream must just be too accessible and too tempting for others to fish while camping or exploring the area... otherwise I would have expected many brookies in the 10" plus-range. Back to the maps to find something more remote for next time, maybe?

We took the back roads for some of the trip home, and the views were spectacular.

All in all it was a relaxing weekend in a beautiful location. Even though I didn't catch any larger fish, I got to see a part of a river I had never explored before, and I only had a few bug bites to show for it. That's still a win in my book any day!


  1. Gorgeous! I love beaver pond brookies, maybe you'll get in there sometime when those big ones are hugging the shore.

  2. I hope so! More places to explore, too, but I do want to visit this place again for sure.